Hospitals Seek Ways to Defuse Angry Doctors


Everyone is prone to an angry outburst from time to time, and doctors are no exception. With well-documented, negative effects on morale, nurse retention, and patient safety, it's safe to say anger issues crop up from time to time among the nearly 40,000 practicing hospitalists throughout the U.S.

A recent article in Kaiser Health News describes efforts by hospitals to deal with physicians' tirades, such as a three-day counseling program developed at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

"All physicians need to be aware that there should be a 'zero tolerance' attitude for disruptive behavior, hospitalists included, and that disruptive behavior undermines a culture of safety, and therefore can put patients in danger," says Danielle Scheurer, MD, MSCR, SFHM, hospitalist and chief quality officer at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and physician editor of The Hospitalist.

In 2009, The Joint Commission issued a sentinel alert about intimidating and disruptive behaviors by physicians and the ways in which hospitals can address the issue.

The problem is not unique to any physician specialty, including hospitalists, says Alan Rosenstein, MD, an internist and disruptive behavior researcher based in San Francisco. A physician's training or personality might contribute to angry outbursts, but excessive workloads will cause pressure, stress, and burnout, which can lead to poor behavior.

"Hospitals can no longer afford to look the other way," Dr. Rosenstein says. "I look at physicians as a precious resource. The organizations they're affiliated with need to be more proactive and empathetic, intervening before the problem reaches the stage of requiring discipline through techniques such as coaching and stress management." TH

Visit our website for more information about the impact of workloads on hospitalists.

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